According to the January 2013 ICEDR report entitled “Taking Charge,” while companies are responsible for putting the right practices in place and having an environment that enables employees to advance, the responsibility ultimately rests on next-generation leaders to empower themselves in the workplace.
This research contradicts what many younger employees expect from a mentor. If you want a mentor, you have to seek one out. However, with the rise of online communities and digital technologies, getting access to the right information often gained from mentors has changed. You can’t ask mentors the questions you can search online anymore — you need to be concise, deliberate and proactive.
The workplace is changing fast and along with it, the norms of mentoring are changing as well. For instance, mentors provide strategies and advice that were helpful to him/her in earlier years. This can be a very positive trait, but at the same time, it can cause some challenges since the career paths, timelines, and workplaces of Millennials are changing much more rapidly in today’s world.
With that in mind, here are seven tips for finding and learning from your own mentor in today’s fast-paced workplace:
- Age doesn’t matter. You don’t have to be much older to be wiser. Sometimes mentors are younger, sometimes they are older. Mentorship is all about having a connection, a questioning mind and desire to helping others in a collaborative way.
- Be a mentor to find a mentor. At an event I attended with Pat Mitchell, CEO of Paley Center of Media, her guiding words were, “Be a mentor.” We often learn so much more about ourselves when we are mentors to others.
- Get over gossip talk. If you really want a mentor, don’t waste time talking about others; focus on the change you want to make and how to get there. If a mentoring relationship isn’t serving you, don’t gossip or waste your time. We need leaders to be supporting each other first and foremost.
- Don’t always agree with your mentor. Just because your mentor says something doesn’t mean it’s right or true. According to Sylvia Ann Hewlett’s research, reports shows that it is not uncommon for a mentor to want to keep mentees subordinate. Learn how to decipher feedback you to determine what really makes sense for you and your goals.
- Build a co-mentor relationship. The idea of co-mentoring is a term used by many leading organizations with an understanding that Baby Boomers and Gen Xers have just as much to learn from Gen Yers and vice versa. We live in a completely different world today, and we must take that to heart. Recognize your power in the mentoring relationship.
- Distinguish between offline and online mentors. E-mentors are emerging in addition to offline mentors. Remember that e-mentors may not respond to a Twitter or email in your first try. Get an introduction, go hear them speak, or find a way to feature them on your blog or otherwise support their work before asking them to support yours.
- Make sure your work gets noticed by your mentor. Don’t expect a potential mentor to know what you’ve accomplished. It’s your job to make sure you actually get credit for the work you do. Good work alone won’t suffice — making sure your work is heard and noticed will make all the difference.
Erica Dhawan is a globally recognized leadership expert, keynote speaker, and corporate consultant teaching companies specific strategies to unleash performance across teams, such as alignment, multi-generational engagement, & innovation. Subscribe to her updates at ericadhawan.com , Twitter and Facebook.